Park Spy: Are You Open?


The Question: Are you open? What kind of changes have you made as a result of the coronavirus?

With restrictions easing in many states across the U.S., denizens are cautiously seeking activity as they emerge from their homes. We asked operations what they’re doing to make guests feel more comfortable when they come back. 

Have a question our Park Spy should ask? Send your question to Sarah Borodaeff ([email protected]) and if we use it, you’re immune for that issue!


First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: Sure! We are open and taking reservations, so we’d love to see you!

API: Are there any changes because of COVID?

Staff: Yes, we have made a few changes in response to the virus. So first off, we’re screening everyone before they arrive and if they might be sick then we’ll ask that you reschedule or cancel your tour.


Staff: So, we’ll send the check-in documents to you the day before your tour to fill out online. If you don’t get to it, you can do it here on your own mobile device. Umm, we’re limiting tours to 10 people and increased our gear cleaning.

API: What are you doing to clean gear? 

Staff: It depends on what the piece of equipment is, but generally we’re cleaning everything more often and added a gear rotation system so things get time to rest between uses. Umm, we’re also fever testing staff daily and requiring that they wear masks.

API: Are guests required to wear masks?

Staff: We’re encouraging it but not requiring it. 

API: OK, anything else I should know?

Staff: I think that’s everything, but if you have any questions, please give us a call back!

API: Will do.

Score: 7

Comment: Friendly and gave the basic overview, but she missed some important details: This operation’s website lists more measures, including hand-washing stations, water, etc. 


First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: We’re open! Did you have a day in mind you’d like to come?

API: Are you making any operational changes because of the virus?

Staff: Ummm, let me check on that.

(on hold)

Staff: So, we haven’t made a lot of changes, because we were already cleaning the buildings and the gear regularly. But we’ve added some hand sanitizer for people that want it.

API: OK. Are you requiring face masks or fever checks or anything like that?

Staff: Ummm, if you want to wear one you can, but not many people do. 

API: OK. Any other changes for the cancellation policy or anything like that?

Staff: Hang on, let me check.

(on hold)

Staff: No, we’re using our normal cancellation policy (reads off cancellation policy). 

API: OK, thanks.

Score: 4 

Comment: She was friendly enough. We’re usually all about staffers checking to get the correct info, but now is a time for whoever answers the phone to be well versed on COVID-related adjustments because it’s important. Don’t know = don’t care.


First contact: Answering machine.

“Thank you for calling (park). We are currently closed due to the coronavirus. We do not have a scheduled open date at this time. However, our team is actively working on figuring out best practices for when we do later this summer! For more information, check out our website at (website) or you can leave a message here and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

Score: 7

Comment: If you’re closed and no one is available to answer the phone, this is the way to do it. The website had some additional information as well. Nice one!


First contact: Male.

API: Stated question.

Staff: We are opening next week and we’re pretty excited about it.

API: I bet. Have you made any changes in response to the virus for the zip tour?

Staff: Yep! So, we’re capping our tours at eight people per tour. We’re asking that everyone wash their hands before they put gear on. Ummm, have you done our tour before?

API: Not your tour, but I have been zipping before.

Staff: OK, so you know how the guides will typically help you put on the gear? We’re going to have you do that as much as possible, and the guides will instruct you using hand gestures and demonstrations. Ummmm, you have to fill out waivers online in advance and, ummmm, you have to wear full fingered gloves, and yeah, that’s about it.

API: Are you requiring face masks?

Staff: No, since we’re outside we’re not and it’s not like they do much anyway.

API: OK, anything else I should know?

Staff: Nope, that’s about it. You can book online or give us a call when you’re ready. 

API: Will do.

Score: 5

Comment: Started off well and then threw the mask comment in there. Don’t alienate your potential guests with personal opinions.


First contact: Answering machine.

“Thanks for calling (park). We are currently closed for the winter season and will be reopening for the summer in April. For more information and to book your adventure, visit our website!

Score: 0

Comment: I think you missed a spot. This park’s website has info about how it’s closed due to the coronavirus, and even has a projected reopening date in June. Yes, people still actually use the telephone, so make sure outgoing messages are up to date.


First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: We are opening this weekend! We do have some changes to how we’re operating, so let me give you the rundown.

API: Great.

Staff: So, let’s start off with before you arrive. We’re asking that everyone sign a participant agreement electronically before they arrive. So, when you make a reservation, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to fill that out.


Staff: And then, once you arrive, we’ll have a staff member meet your group outside to verify that everyone has signed the waiver electronically. We’re also requiring that everyone wear face coverings. If you have one you can bring your own, or you can purchase one in the retail store here. We have some fun ones! 

API: Are there any requirements for the mask? Do they need to be N95s or anything like that?

Staff: A homemade cloth mask is just fine. We just ask that it covers your nose and mouth.

API: Gotcha.

Staff: Yeah! Other than that, we’re just asking that you leave personal belongings in your car. We’ll hang onto your car keys if you want, but we will wipe them down. Umm, and we’re screening staff before they start work for the day, cleaning common areas between groups, and we have handwashing stations available for you.

API: Sounds like you’ve thought it through.

Staff: We’re trying! Do you know how many people would be in your group?

API: Ummm, probably five.

Staff: I ask because if you’re more comfortable doing a private tour with just your family, we can do that, too.

API: Where can I find more information on that?

Staff: Those are all custom tours, so you’d need to call us back when you’re ready to book. But you can find all this information, plus information about the tour and the changes we’ve made because of the virus, on our website. Oh, and I almost forgot, if you’re not feeling well and need to reschedule, just let us know. We’d rather have you come another time if you’re sick.

API: Thanks! I’ll check it out.

Staff: If you have any questions or when you’re ready to book, give us a call back!

Score: 10

Comment: She got right into the new procedures without me needing to prod, and presented them in a friendly, confident manner. This gives callers confidence in the park’s level of care, which is vital anytime, but especially vital now.

Identity revealed: The Gorge


The pandemic is permeating every aspect of life right now, including whether or not to participate in leisure activities—such as an afternoon of zip lining.

In order to open, steps need to be taken to make the workplace and guest experience as safe as possible. What each operation does to mitigate the risk of anyone contracting COVID-19 will be influenced and informed by their state and local authorities, the prevalence of COVID-19 in the area, as well as the comfort level of their guests—a key component to the successful re-opening of any business.

Operators need to effectively communicate to guests any changes they’re making to normal operations in response to the pandemic. Guests need to know what the new procedures are before they arrive in order to keep things running smoothly. Plus, those who are nervous are going to be more likely to give it a try if it sounds like you’re on top of it.

A blasé approach to this communication—regardless of how individual staff or owners feel about the situation—will negatively impact business. Why? Because guests who don’t care about the measures you’re taking will visit anyway. But guests who do care and get the impression you don’t will likely never consider visiting your park, now or in the future.  


About Author

Sarah Borodaeff is the former research editor for Adventure Park Insider magazine and current freelance contributor. A professional ski bum and former zip guide, Sarah enjoys any excuse to talk about outdoor adventures.

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